Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1918, Private William Alfred Hodges, 1st/1st Battalion, the Herefordshire Regiment, died on the Western Front.
The eldest in a family of six children, he and his father worked as farm labourers. At the outbreak of the Great War, Private Hodges was already a member of the Territorial Force, and was immediately transferred to the 1st/1st Battalion of the Herefordshire Regiment, part of the Territorial Force, and which had no battalions in the regular army.
In July of 1915, his battalion sailed for Gallipoli aboard S.S. Euripedes, arriving on the 9th of August. Private Hodges found himself in action the following day, under heavy artillery fire – the battalion had no instructions, nor transport and horses. They were Mentioned in Despatches, praised by General Sir Ian Hamilton for their “impetuosity and courage”. Private Hodges spent several weeks constructing fences and helping to unload and transport stores and ammunition which arrived at the beaches. He saw action again in October, and the following month many of his colleagues suffered frost bite as the area was overcome by a great storm.
After five months the battalion was evacuated from Gallipoli and moved to Egypt. 1916 was described as quiet, but in 1917 they suffered many losses on the way to Jerusalem. They also suffered from the heat, with men reporting that they were able to cook eggs in their tin hats. In early 1918 they were sent to the Western Front, in time for the Spring Offensive.
Private Hodges arrived in Italy in June of 1918, moving on to Proven in Belgium via France. He saw action during the Second Battle of the Marne, where many casualties were suffered due to the inexperience of fighting in the trenches – the battalion was withdrawn, having lost 238 men on just the first day.
In October Private Hodges became ill during the fighting near Ypres, and died of pneumonia, described as a war-related sickness. He lies buried in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium, and on his headstone are the words, “Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast”. He is commemorated on the Kempley war memorial, and in St. Mary’s Church in Kempley, Gloucestershire.
William, from Dymock in Gloucestershire, was 32 years old.